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The University of Hawai‘i’s Institute for Astronomy Research Experience for Undergraduates Program

Presentation #312.06 in the session IDEA, Education, Public Engagement, Workforce Development and History (Poster)

Published onOct 23, 2023
The University of Hawai‘i’s Institute for Astronomy Research Experience for Undergraduates Program

The University of Hawai‘i’s Institute for Astronomy (IfA) REU program has been in operation nearly every summer for more than twenty years. It provides individually mentored research experiences at the forefront of astronomical exploration to foster the careers of a diverse cohort of aspiring professionals in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). This poster focuses on the past four summers in which the co-authors were co-Directors of the program. Almost all the students performed their research at the IfA in Honolulu. During their ten weeks in Hawai‘i the REU participants interact on a nearly daily basis with their faculty, postdoc, and graduate student mentors. Their goal is to produce a nearly-publishable paper during the program and many continue to work with their mentors in the subsequent months to complete the research and submit their papers for publication. We promote good writing habits by requiring the students to provide a set of three increasingly mature draft reports in the form of a research paper, and provide reviewer-style feedback on each report to help the students improve their writing skills and allow the mentors and directors to monitor their progress. At the end of the program the students develop their presentation skills by being instructed on preparing poster and oral presentations and then giving them to an Institute-wide audience. The participants are financially supported to present their research in poster or oral form at a professional meeting after the program ends, typically the winter AAS meeting.

We monitor the program’s successes and identify areas of improvement through independent external evaluations managed by a REU program evaluation specialist. They allow us to assess our progress through independent, external, quantifiable surveys and interviews with the participants just before the program begins, at its mid-point, and after the program ends.

In addition to their research activities the students participate in professional development discussions covering professional ethics, resume writing, and graduate school applications; visit a few of the observatories on Maunakea; co-observe for at least two nights with IfA astronomers on telescopes located on Maunakea or Haleakala; meet weekly in pairs with an IfA graduate student; learn about the history and culture of Hawai‘i through visits to e.g. Pearl Harbor and the world famous Bishop Museum, the premier natural and cultural history museum in the state focusing on Polynesia; learn about Polynesian voyaging; and, of course, enjoy the land, sea, and sky of one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

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